ING Direct Canada launches *almost* no-fee chequing account

First published on August 18, 2010

Back in 1997, ING Direct Canada launched an online, high interest savings account which, although was not the first of its kind in Canada, was by far the most well-known and in many ways was an important pioneer. Since then, most other banks have caught up, and ING Direct’s savings rates are not as competitive anymore. I started to wonder whether its slick marketing efforts cancelled out its savings from being an online bank. Also, you’ve always had to pair an ING Direct Investment Savings Account with a chequing account at another bank for full access to your money.

In spite of ING’s middle-of-the-road rates and lack of features, I’ve kept an ING Direct Canada account over the years because of its straightforward, easy-to-use online interface, good customer support, and occasionally decent promotions. Somehow it’s remained just relevant enough. (Why ING Direct Canada’s chequing account took so long to be unveiled is a bit of a mystery, since it has existed in the US for a few years now.) Today it launched a “preview” of its *almost* no-fee chequing account, called the THRiVE Chequing account. By “almost no-fee”, I mean that you still have to pay a small amount for the cheques themselves (after the first 20) and for other typically pay-per-use items such as drafts.

By “preview” I mean that it becomes available for use on September 14, and in its first phase, only to the first 10,000 existing customers who sign up before then. If you’re not already an existing customer, you can open any of its other accounts first (although, be sure to ask as existing customer for their referral code so that you can both get $25), and then immediately apply to get a chequing account. It will be directly available to completely new customers some time in 2011. While the official ING Direct reason for the phased rollout is to finetune the features based on customer feedback, there’s certainly an element of them needing to do more technical testing and of ramping up their internal resources to support such a huge endeavour!

Here are some key features of the ING Direct Canada THRiVE Chequing account. :

  • free to write cheques; first 20 physical cheques are free, but each additional batch of 20 cheques is $10
  • 1 free stop payment per year, then $10 each thereafter
  • free debit
  • free bill payments
  • free withdrawals on EXCHANGE network ATMs, which comprise most credit unions and HSBC ATMs
  • you can go $250 overdraft on your account without penalty as long as you pay it back within 30 days
  • mobile account access
  • customized e-mail alerts
  • free e-mail money transfers; I believe that this is something that many people could benefit from
  • 24/7 phone and e-mail support; there are also a small handful of ING Direct “cafes” where you can talk to someone in-person, although they can’t directly do that much for you
  • $10 for Canadian drafts, including delivery (courier) costs

For a full list of fees, see this page, and for a full account description, see this page.

There is a nominal 0.25% interest rate (higher for balances over $50,000), but you can transfer money to and from an ING Direct Investment Savings Account that has a higher rate.

One thing I’ve always wondered with a fully online bank (or at least one with physical branches that are far away) is what to do if you ever need to deposit a US-dollar cheque. Apparently you can deposit it at an ATM as a Canadian cheque, and later when it’s processed (with something like a 30-day hold), the exchange rate will be applied.

Taking all of the information into account, I think that ING Direct’s new chequing account is an exciting new offering, one that I’ll certainly be trying out. Its feature set is quite complete.

If the THRiVE Chequing account is of interest to you, be sure to consider other options as well. For example, Coast Capital Savings in British Columbia already offers a no-fee chequing account, as does CIBC-owned PC Financial. PC Financial has lower interest rates, fewer features, and a clunkier interface, but does not charge you for the actual cheques.


3 Responses to “ING Direct Canada launches *almost* no-fee chequing account”

  1. Julia says:

    hmm very interesting. The cheque fee is very high – that’s $0.50 per cheque – heavy transaction fee for using cheques (which if you rent etc, you need to use). although some free at the beginning is good.

    The overdraft protection at no interest charge seems to be a fairly unique and positive feature!

  2. Vincent Cheung says:

    When I have US Cheques to deposit to my ING bank account, I do deposit by mail. This lets me deposit into my US$ bank account and lets me keep the funds in US$.

  3. Gillian says:


    I checked into Coast-Capital. They look fan freaking’ tastic, however, I guess they are an actual in person bank? I know they have bank locations, but is their online banking an actual online bank, something that anyone from anywhere can use in the same way as ING? I couldn’t tell just by looking at their website.

    We live farther up Vancouver Island so it would not be possible to deposit checks in person.

    Thank you, I hope this question was clear.

    Reply from Peter: Yes, Coast Capital is a “bricks & mortar” bank. You’ll have to contact them directly to find out about whether you can mail cheques to them. If you have any bank machines near you that are part of the “EXCHANGE” network, you could use those machines.

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